Easy and cheap sweater upcycling ideas
In this post, you will learn how to refashion a sweater in multiple simple ways. You can quickly turn one of your old garments to something stunning and unique.
I love the cold weather for a couple of reasons: hot chocolate, tea, snow, sweaters, and more hot chocolate.
Sweaters are cozy and soft, they are like a warm, very long hug. But old, worn-out pullovers are ugly and dull. So I’ve decided that this winter I’m going to transform a couple of my sweaters.
I’m sure you also have a couple of old sweaters or pullovers you don’t like to wear anymore, but you always make an excuse not to throw them out.
‘I’m going to wear it next year.’
‘It’s too loose, but if I gain weight (hope not, but it happens) during the holidays, I will have a fitting sweater.’
‘After I remove the lint, I will wear it.’
Before jumping in and messing up decent clothing, I like to research and collect ideas to find the best and most suitable for my project. So I gathered a couple of hacks to revamp a sweater. Most of these refashions are fast and easy to make.
How to refashion a sweater?
I’ve found multiple ways to revamp an old, dull pullover. To be exact, I’ve collected 26 fantastic ideas. I’m sure you will find at least one that you like.
So, are you ready?
Let’s see those refashions!
1. Split with a zipper
I like zippers as decor on clothing because they add a neat touch. You can easily sew zippers on sweaters that already have a side split.
If you have a regular sweater, you have to separate the two sides at the sewing. Be careful, you don’t want to cut in the knit fabric.
Metal zippers look best for this refashion idea.
A zipper opening on the back, all the way up, looks sexy.
The past year I had a crush on embroidery. I’ve made embroidered bookmarks, jewelry, purse, etc. Embroidered clothes are a huge trend this year.
So, why not embroider on a dull sweater? They look stunning! I will make an embroidered pullover soon, so stay tuned because I will share my project.
3. Bottom with shirt
What to do with a boring sweater and shirt? Fuse them! Top them with flower lace (this one looks similar to the sweater in the picture), the result is a feminine and unique top you can wear for work, a walk in the city, or a family gathering. A must-have for a casual fall or winter outfit.
Did I convince you? Start with cutting the shirt in the middle and then sew the sweater with the shirt. The final touch, sew or glue the lace on top of them. Voila!
4. Yarn loop decor
With this refashion project, you can do a double upcycle. Yay! More room in the closet.
The first step is to turn and old stockings or an old T-shirt into yarn (or grab yarn from the craft store). On the image below, they’ve hidden Rondelle crystal beads within the thread. You can sew or glue the beads in the yarn (make sure that the glue won’t soak through the layer).
Make a loop and secure it with thread. Make one or multiple rows; it’s up to you. It looks fabulous on the cuffs or the bottom of your sweater.
5. Bottom and cuff lace
Lace is feminine and delicate. Turns romantic every piece of clothing, sweaters are no exception.
An easy and fast transformation would be sewing or gluing lace to the bottom and the cuffs of the pullover. An outstanding sweater to create a romantic look.
6. Bead decor at the neckline
Talking about lace… I found this adorable sweater with lace-like bead embellishment. An excellent outfit for big family dinners and afternoon walks in the city.
This refashion idea is easy to make, but a little time-consuming. If you like feminine clothes and have the time and patience, this project is for you.
I found these superb beads and pearls to help you get started.
7. Bow (back, side, front)
Some may say that bows are girlish, but I think a well-tied ribbon turns dull clothing to feminine.
This is a fast and easy sweater transformation idea. Choose a ribbon that matches your sweater (the same color in a different tone, contrasting colors, or black bows that make everything chicer).
The more effortless technique is to cut two identic lengths of ribbon, sew on the sweater and tie them, or you can open up a small part to create a split and sew the fabrics that will close the opening. If you go with the second method, open the seam line (when you add the ribbon to the sides). If you cut the knit fabric, sew or cover the edges with twill ribbon.
8. Side split with contrast fabric
This pullover revamp idea is similar to the zipper side split trick.
Open up the side of the sweater to the armpits. Choose a contrasting colored twill ribbon, cover both sides, and sew them on. Good fabric glue will do the trick, but sewing is safer.
9. Lace within the sweater
Lace is a superstar when we talk about refashioning women’s clothes. Ribbons made out of lace are easy to incorporate, they make everything feminine, and they are versatile (if you didn’t know lace eyelashes exist).
Choose a wide lace ribbon, sew or glue it on the sleaves (at the edges). Turn the sweater inside out. Cut the fabric in the middle, be careful not to cut the lace too, close the cut edges with thread or glue them down. It’s easy breezy! Try it on the back and front also!
10. metal embellishments
With this trick, you can add a unique and modern touch to your boring sweater. Grab a couple of rectangle studs with claws, and create a design on the chest of your sweater. Studs look good on the shoulders or other parts of your clothes.
Be careful! Close the claws well, check them twice, you don’t want to get poked every time you wear your new gorgeous sweater.
11. Ribbon decor
I love this refashion idea! There’s no need for particular skills. Grab a ribbon (tulle, organza, satin) or a skinny scarf like this one, and tuck it between the holes.
You can create multiple designs, but I like this one the most. This hack works with more chunky knit sweaters. You can make it in no time!
12. Elbow patches (embroidery, felt, metallic fabric)
A right elbow patch restyles a dull shirt, sweater, cardigan, or jacket. Adding elbow patches is a fast and easy way to transform an old sweater.
But it doesn’t have to be ordinary! I’ve found these stunning elbow patches: metallic fabric, felt, and embroidery elbow patches. You could guess it, my favorite is the embroidery patch. All three techniques are uncomplicated, the embroidery is the most time-consuming.
For the first one, I would use faux metallic leather, cut your patch and sew or glue them on the sweater.
For making felt elbow patches, you can choose from two methods: needle felting (check out this cool tutorial, be aware that you need a wool sweater for this project) or cutting a felt patch, then sew/glue it on the sweatshirt (use wool-blend felt).
If you choose to embroider, before starting to work on the sweater, use a fabric stabilizer on the wrong side. Lightweight knit fabrics are stretchy, the embroidery will turn out messy if you don’t stabilize the area you want to embroider.
13. Fabric sleeves
Are you a patterned fabric lover like me? Well, this refashion idea is for you.
Grab a piece of your favorite fabric, cut a rectangle, and sew it on the sleaves of your sweater. Don’t forget to tuck in the edges, or use a fray stopper—sew-on gems, beads, and rhinestones to embellish the sweater.
Are you in for a little bling-bling? I admit I’m not a girly-girl, I never was. Pink, rhinestones, glittery stuff, feathery clothes, and too much lace are not my thing. I like to look at them, but I would never wear them. So this is for you!
For this revamp, you can use four types of rhinestones: in a metal setting, flat back sew-on, flat back hot-fix, and rhinestone trims (single or multiple rows). Arrange the stones as you wish and start sewing or ironing if you chose the hot-fix rhinestone.
15. Bead split into the sides
If you prefer subtle transformations, this one is for you. Grab a few larger sized seed beads, a needle, thread, scissors, and start working.
Create a short opening at the sides. Start with sewing on one seed bead at the top of your cut. String more beads with every row, until you close the opening. You can add metal beads to create a fantastic adornment.
This hack is also suitable for sweaters that are too tight at the bottom.
16. Big chain decor
Large chains with beads and colorful threads are unique statement necklaces. You can create a faux collar on the sweater or decorate the shoulders with different sized strings arranged in multiple layers.
Choose a chain that fits your style (color and size). With the same colored thread as the sweater, sew it on at the neckline.
Do you like experimenting? Grab colorful thread, and attach the chain with decorative stitching. A simple upcycle with a marvelous outcome.
17. Buckle for decor
Add a touch of coolness with a buckle. Choose an old belt or twill ribbon and a buckle with your preferred color, and sew them at the top, or the sides. It’s ready in 5 minutes.
This refashion idea is also suitable for large sweaters, add the buckle to the waistline and pull it to create a slenderizing look.
18. Pom-pom sweater
Pom-poms are fun and trending this year. From clothing and accessories to home decor, you can find them everywhere.
You can make two types of pom-pom sweaters using: pre-made pom-poms and fluffy pom-pom made by yourself (it will take more time to finish your craft). You can use a pom-pom maker, a fork, cardboard, or make them in bundles.
When you have your pom-poms, start sewing. Add them to the body or the sleeves of the sweater, or everywhere, it’s up to you. You can create shapes, like a heart with your pom-poms.
19. Cover with lace
I think I’ve found my favorite sweater makeover! It’s easy to make, and when you’re done, you will have the most enchanting, elegant, and feminine sweater.
This lace is similar to the one in the picture, but I came across this black and this white gorgeous lace fabric. They would look fantastic on a soft wool sweater—a great outfit for Christmas dinner.
20. Yarn art
If you like bold, artistic outfits, this one is for you. With a T-shirt yarn, thread, a needle, and a little sewing, you can create a stylish sweater that your friends will envy.
I recommend drawing your design on a paper first. You can also track it on the sweater with a fabric marker, that will wash out. Use beads, rhinestones, studs, felt/fabric applique to create a dramatic effect.
21. Applique (flower, kiss, fabric/felt)
Did you like the pom-pom sweater idea? Use fabric/felt appliques instead of pom-poms.
You can create flowers, bows, or other fun designs like the kiss shape to craft a trendy sweater. If you need an ugly sweater for Christmas, then you need this revamp idea!
22. small embellishments for decoration
If you’re like me, then you have a bunch of buttons or left-over ribbon in a box somewhere (If you don’t, look at these cheap and cute buttons I’ve found). Now their time has come!
Arrange them in a row, scatter them all over the sweater, integrate them in appliques or embroidery. It’s up to you!
Sequins are trendy, they are used on clothes, home decor, and accessories.
Sewing on sequins is time-consuming. With this refashion project, you can create a color explosion at the neckline. The result is glamorous!
If you don’t have the time or patience to sew them on, choose a sequin fabric and cut out a shape, like a heart, kiss, or diamond, and glue it on the sweater.
24. Sweater mashup
Another double refashion. Yay! Choose two types of pullovers: simple, chunky, cable-knit, fluffy, etc. Cut the sweaters and interchange parts.
This project is perfect for sweaters that have holes or unremovable stains.
25. Neck fabric insert
For this revamp, grab your favorite fabric and a turtleneck sweater. Cut the neck and insert a triangle-shaped material.
This hack makes a boring sweater fashionable and also a tight sweater fitting.
Pearl necklets are the symbols of feminity and elegance. Why shouldn’t we wear them on our clothes too?
With a little stitching and pearls, you can transform quotidian to chic. You will look fabulous! Decorate the body, sleeves, neckline, cuffs, shoulders, it’s up to you. Choose different sizes to create a delightful and unique sweater.
Cut-outs on shirts and blouses are fashionable and sexy. It’s easy to make and customize them. Although, be careful while cutting, use a fray stopper, or close the openings with sewing.
You can also use beads, studs, ribbons to contour the cut-outs.
28. Painted designs
With good fabric paint, you can quickly draw, stamp, and unique stencil designs on your sweater. It’s a fast way to upcycle your pullovers and other clothes with words, symbols, flowers, and different fun patterns.
Use 3D fabric paints to create textured designs.
Tips and hacks:
Sew or glue?
It depends on you. Good fabric glue can work miracles. Gluing is always faster than sewing, but I prefer stitching. Here are some aspects you may want to consider.
Don’t sew if:
- the fabric is very delicate (for example certain types of lace will look ugly if the stitching is visible on top),
- you don’t have time,
- you are terrible at sewing.
In most cases, there is a way to avoid sewing, for example, hot fix pearls, beads, rhinestones that you can iron on, or sequin embellished fabric. But you cant avoid sewing altogether.
Make a test first!
I know you’ve got excited like I did, seeing these beautiful and straightforward refashions, but before jumping in a little designing, planning, and testing won’t hurt.
Draw the design on a paper (embroidery), arrange the embellishment on the sweater before sewing or gluing (pearls, yarn art, studs, rhinestones). Be your own fashion designer.
It can save you from a lot of headaches, anger, and swearing.
The miracle stuff!
Delicate knit fabrics stretch, you need to use a stabilizer under embroidery and beading to keep your work neat.
Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy has the firmness and feel of fabric, and it washes away. Also, it makes the pattern transferring to materials a piece of cake.
These sweaters are like little unicorns
Choose high-quality embellishments (a cheap pearl will peel), durable thread, good fabric glue.
Your beautiful sweater creations need a little special care. Wash them on a low temperature, short and gentle cycle or handwash.
With this extra attention, you can enjoy them for years.
What to do if it turned out unwearable?
Don’t worry, it happens, and I got your back! Try these awesome sweater repurposing ideas.
Final thoughts about sweater refashion ideas
As you can see, with a couple of easy and cheap methods, techniques, and embellishments, you can give new life to an old and dull garment.
You can also use many ideas on a sweater. It is up to you. I hope you enjoyed these ideas and tips and found some gems.
Which refashion idea was your favorite? Would you like to see a tutorial? Leave a comment!
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